West Virginia's Game Plan? Attack or be Attacked, According to Coaching Staff

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - West Virginia will face the most attacking team it has this season in Arizona State. How do the Mountaineers counter the all-out blitzing, risk-reward defense of the Sun Devils, and an offense looking to threaten via the pass as often as possible?

The key, according to the coaching staff, is to pick the correct time and spots to flip that risk into a reward for the Mountaineers. Head coach Dana Holgorsen, above in his primary media interview from Thursday morning, noted the juxtaposition between the last foe in Kansas State and how Keith Patterson runs ASU's defense couldn't be any greater. The Wildcats, Holgorsen said during a more individual interview, would "give you the routine plays. It's why our completion percentage was much higher in that game."

Arizona State doesn't give routine plays. It forces teams into a faster pace of read and react, and of blitz recognition, believing that the urge to rush through progressions will trigger mistakes. It's paid major dividends at times, while also causing wideouts to run free through the open secondary, which is often in a zero coverage due to the increased numbers to both pressure the pocket and clog the run game.

How to combat that? Run screens, get the ball out quickly in the short and intermediate game, and be able to complete some of the more challenging vertical plays, be it on post or flag routes, or simply a go. Holgorsen noted that WVU's receivers would often face one-on-one match-ups, and will have to exploit those. As such, the loss of Jovon Durante's speed will affect the game. But the Mountaineers, Holgorsen said, can counter that with yardage after the catch. So keep on eye on players like Jordan Thompson, Daikiel Shorts - who is the team's leading receiver in terms of catches with 39 - and even Ka'Raun White, who KJ Dillon said has come on of late and been impressive in the bowl practice sessions.

Their ability to break an initial tackle, or make plays down the sidelines along with Shelton Gibson, will be a prime factor in exploiting Arizona State's style. Receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, below, talks about adding tweaks after pouring over film for a month, and how the Mountaineers have approached the bowl preparation. Galloway also speaks to fine tuning the offense after the majority of the work and groundwork for the game was completed in Morgantown.

And finally, on the flipside, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson speaks to the relationship and breakdown of film of the way West Virginia runs the odd stack, and what Todd Graham and the ASU offense saw from Arizona, which runs a similar scheme under former WVU coordinator Jeff Casteel. Just how much can the Devils take from that, considering Gibson's style blitzes significantly more, and has very different personnel? And how much can Gibson himself learn from the way Arizona State countered the stack look, and how an experienced quarterback behind a line dominated by four seniors might approach playing the 3-3-5? Take a listen as Gibson details those issues and more below.


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